Stephen Covey said, "Most of us don't listen with the intent to understand. We listen with the intent to reply." The following are 10 basic rules to having better conversations.
1. Don't multitask. Be present. Be in that moment. Don't think about your argument you had with your boss, or what you're going to have for dinner. If you want to get out of the conversation, get out of the conversation, but don't be half in it and half out of it.
2. Don't pontificate. If you want to state your opinion without any response, argument, pushback,or growth, write a blog.
3. Use open-ended questions. Take a cue from journalists. Start your questions with who, what, when, where, why, or how. Try asking them things like, "What was that like?" "How did that feel?" Because then they might have to stop and think about it, and you're going to get a much more interesting response.
4. Go with the flow. That means thoughts will come into your mind and you need to let them go out of your mind. We've heard interviews often in which a guest is talking for several minutes and then the host comes back in and asks a question which seems like it comes out of nowhere, or it's already been answered. That means the host probably stopped listening two minutes ago because he thought of this really clever question, and he was just bound and determined to say that.
5. If you don't know, say that you don't know. People on the radio are much more aware that they're going on the record, so they're more careful about what they claim to be an expert in and what they claim to know for sure. Err on the side of caution.
6. Don't equate your experience with theirs. If they're talking about having lost a family member, don't start talking about the time you lost a family member. If they're talking about the trouble they're having at work, don't tell them about how much you hate your job. It's not the same. It is never the same. All experiences are individual. And, more importantly, it is not about you. Conversations are not a promotional opportunity.
7. Try not to repeat yourself. It's condescending, really boring, and we tend to do it a lot. Especially in work conversations or in conversations with our kids, we have a point to make, so we just keep rephrasing it over and over. Don't do that.
8. Stay out of the weeds. Frankly, people don't care about the years, the names, the dates, all those details that you're struggling to come up with in your mind. What they care about is you. They care about what you're like, what you have in common. So leave out the details.
9. Listen. I cannot tell you how many really important people have said that listening is perhaps the number one most important skill that you could develop. Buddha said, and I'm paraphrasing, "If your mouth is open, you're not learning." And Calvin Coolidge said, "No man ever listened his way out of a job."
10. Be brief.
All of this boils down to the same basic concept: Be interested in other people.